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"Use every man after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping?"

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

The Troubadour to be sold because locals want to sleep? Please tell me this is a July fools' day joke…..

I read a story in (what else?) the Evening Standard that made my blood freeze, then boil again.

First I see the headline, deep into the paper on page 22: Sound of silence: coffee shop where Paul Simon, Dylan and Hendrix sang up for sale.

It's immediately clear they're talking about The Troubadour, the coffee shop on the Old Brompton Road in Earls Court which has the most famous basement in London. It is, literally, the place where much of the music, folk, folk-rock, psychedelic - which defined the 60s and 70s was helped out into the world, before it flourished.

I was too young to know the place in its heyday but went there in the 70s, more or less as tourist, even though at the time I was living five minute's walk away in Beaufort Street. I was in complete awe of the place and of its regular clientele, who all seemed impossibly cool and wonderful to me, the suburban oik who'd fallen lucky and was mixing with a group of older people who'd been involved in their scene from the outset.

So now, 40 years on, it's up for sale: the vendors, who've kept the flame burning as brightly as they could for the past 17 years, say it is no longer viable. It's not just the £150,000 pa rent - more disgraceful  than that, even, is the fact that Kensington & Chelsea council has approved a 9pm noise abatement order on the garden area.

Now, checking out the Troubadour's twitter and Facebook feeds, it seems they're trying to calm our fears: they say their hoping new owners will given them the funding to continue offering a full program of live music. But to me it's this 9pm curfew thing that just seems outrageous - this is Earls Court, not Stoke Poges!

Current owner Simon Thornhill told the Standard that it was the latter that had "killed" them: "Before, people wanted to live in a vibrant area with a lot going on, now it's like they want to live in a dormitory zone".

Exactly: but why are these people allowed to have any sway in the argument? It was bad enough when they tried this one on the Ministry of Sound at the Elephant and Castle. That nightclub had been a massive success for about 20 years when developers decided they'd like to build luxury apartments next door. Luckily, the club was owned by a guy who had some clout in the establishment and the threat was removed.

You'd think, therefore , that the Troubadour would have twice the moral and cultural capital with which to snub such a ludicrous idea, that they have to hush down after  9 o'clock, for god's sake! And yet the council went with the money.

What happened to the rights of the existing population?

I read this story while listening to a debate on the future of BBC licence fee funding. It made me think: I would pay double the current licence fee happily for what I get from BBC Radios 4, London, 3, 2, 1, and 6 in that order (I like BBC TV as well, or a lot of it, but unfortunately my TV aerial is not really up to the digital signal which seems very flaky).

Anyway, double the licence fee and give the BBC a new remit - to rescue culturally significant performance spaces like the Troubadour, and similar clubs all around the UK, and use them for recording live performances. Remember when the BBC used to own half of Shepherd's Bush? Let's go back to that, with theatres, cinemas, recording studios, etc, back in public ownership. WHat a dream!

But whatever happens, don't , please, turn the Troubadour into a Costa.

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